What’s in a name? Unearthing the origin of the ethnonym Ayoreo

    Ayoreo is an indigenous language of the Zamucoan family spoken by about 4,500 people in northern Paraguay and southeastern Bolivia. Although we knew that the name Ayoreo means ‘people’ in their language, the origin of this word was a conundrum.

    Indeed, the name Ayoreo only emerged in the 1940s for the first time, while the Ayoreo had been in contact with Western society for centuries, and many different names had referred to them. In the first half of the 18th century, a missionary had carefully described a Zamucoan language very close to Ayoreo, called Zamuco. Surprisingly, in the available documentation on Zamuco, the term for ‘people’ was not Ayoreo. Is it possible that nobody before the 1940s had understood that the Ayoreo were called Ayoreo? And, even so, why had this term for ‘people’ never been documented before?

    Although indigenous societies and their traditions are often seen as static and immutable, cultural and linguistic change can be rapid. For this reason, it was hypothesized that the name Ayoreo  ‘people’ had been borrowed recently.
    In a paper that has just appeared in Journal de la Societé des Américanistes, Dr. Luca Ciucci reconstructs the history of the name Ayoreo ‘people’ and solves the etymological problem of Ayoreo. Thanks to the analysis of new historical data, he found the first attestations of the name Ayoreo in the close 18th-century language Zamuco, showing that the term was not borrowed.

    At the same time, the study confirms that the adoption of the word Ayoreo to refer to an ethnical group is indeed recent and is an indirect consequence of the Chaco War (1932-1935) between Bolivia and Paraguay. In the past, the Ayoreo people were sometimes referred to as Zamuco, from the name of the close Zamuco language, which is extinct.

    Still today, Ayoreo is one of the official languages of Bolivia and is referred to as Zamuco in the Bolivian Constitution. This study also analyzes new ethnonyms used in the past for and by Zamucoan peoples. While confirming that Zamuco is a borrowed term, as assumed by previous studies, the “real” name of the Zamuco people in their language emerges for the first time.
    The link to the study is here 

    Back to List


    More News


    Scholarships for Indigenous women to succeed in STEM

    Scholarships for Indigenous women to succeed in STEM

    In the late 1990s, when Dr Chris Sarra became the first Aboriginal principal of Cherbourg State School, he challenged the whole school community to have High-Expectations Relationships ...

    Read More

    Research for Ethical Development Symposium

    Research for Ethical Development Symposium

    On 13-14 July JCU’s Research for Ethical Development (JCU RED) group held its inaugural research symposium at the Cairns Institute via hybrid delivery mode. Over two engaging days...

    Read More

    Hunter's Reef Madness

    Hunter's Reef Madness

    Professor Ernest Hunter, an Adjunct with The Cairns Institute, recently published a book titled Reef Madness: Digging up the dirt on an Australian myth. The book centres on how for gene...

    Read More

    What’s in a name? Unearthing the origin of the ethnonym Ayoreo

    What’s in a name? Unearthing the origin of the ethnonym Ayoreo

    Ayoreo is an indigenous language of the Zamucoan family spoken by about 4,500 people in northern Paraguay and southeastern Bolivia. Although we knew that the name Ayoreo means ‘people&...

    Read More

    The North provides for Australia’s economic future and prosperity

    The North provides for Australia’s economic future and prosperity

    The annual Developing Northern Australia Conference was held in Mackay 6-8 July 2022. Allan Dale is the Chair of this long running Conference that provides a platform for networking and conn...

    Read More

    Award-winning Irish Poet coming to Cairns

    Award-winning Irish Poet coming to Cairns

    Colm Keegan is described as, “One of the most important voices in contemporary Irish literature” by poet Kerrie O’Brien, and he is coming to The Cairns Institute, Australia...

    Read More

    John Hamilton

    John Hamilton

    The International Consortium for Electronic Business’ Regional VP for Australasia and The Cairns Institute Adjunct Chair Professor John Hamilton delivered the Universitas Diponegoro (I...

    Read More

    A community undertaking, Tender FNQ

    A community undertaking, Tender FNQ

    On Monday 8th August, The Cairns Institute hosted a film screening of ‘Tender’. It is a film that documents the story of a community building a way to create more meaningful and&...

    Read More

    Top

    © 2022 The Cairns Institute | Site Map | Site by OracleStudio | Design by LeoSchoepflin